Machine logic: our lives are ruled by big tech’s ‘decisions by data’

Aiming at population-level predictive gambles, they filter who and what counts – including who is released from jail and the news that you see, researchers warn ‘Who rules, who counts?’ Cornelius Puschmann, Kate Crawford, Carolin Gerlitz and Fieke Jansen debate. Photograph: Mathias Völzke/Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society In the early 1970s, Hannah Arendt wrote a devastating critique of the Pentagon’s Vietnam-era penchant for policy by counting. “The problem-solvers did not judge,” she wrote. “They calculated.” Exuding the spirit of gamblers rather than statesmen, the decision-makers played “the percentage game”, counting whatever could be counted and ignoring the rest, or the underlying problems, with “an utterly irrational confidence in the calculability of reality”. With artificial intelligence and machine learning, technologies that are fast becoming very significant actors, “we…


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